By: Hannah Hegwood and Morgan Lendway
Upon arrival in the first village of Kalasin, I quickly noticed the simplicity of everything. The road was barely paved, packs of dogs roamed and open pastures lead up to a magnificent mountain range. The simplistic way of life stemmed from the home: which was a one level, not vey ornamental, mostly one room humble abode. It served its purpose as a shelter and a comforting place, somewhere I could easily call home. Everyone here had hardened hands and works hard to maintain their lifestyles. The people here were obviously slightly influenced by our annual visits and some seem to be adopting some of our western ideas. We were greeted warmly with hugs and some girls even wore tank tops, not customary in the Thai culture. Some English was spoken, although harsh and broken, which created many communication challenges. It was interesting learning how to effectively communicate and realizing that the language of love, anger and other emotions are universal. I could tell when my homestay mother was being affectionate towards me when she touched my hair and smiled; I could also tell she was upset when I forgot to take my shoes off in the house.
The place I will be comparing Kalasin to is the beautiful beach island of Ko Samet. We stepped off a speedboat into the warm blue/green water and saw resorts for as far as the eye could see. People walked with a relaxed step, lounged on the beach in barely any clothing and splashed around in the sea; the resort although simple had a clean and expensive appeal. A sandy road lead to a paved one that lead to what appeared to be main street, which had two seven-elevens (the groups favorite pit stop). Many shops lined the streets selling over priced souvenirs. Many other streets traveled along the coast and were heavily marked by hoping clubs. The native Thai people living on this island that we interacted with were heavily influenced by the tourism they are surrounded by. Many of them spoke decent English and appeared well manicured. Many of the Thai people vacationing here didn’t look callused or had dark complexions, which in the Thai culture could be symbolic of wealth.
What I am trying to get across with my two previous paragraphs is the stark differences between living in a rural village and a tourist beach area. Never to say the western influences are bad, but that they create noticeable and life altering differences.
Thailand. It is a place where you never know what to expect. I was lucky enough to experience this country in all the ways that it could possibly offer. With the first village, in Kalasin I could see a place, which was hard at work to get what they had, a place that didn’t receive things easily, they worked for their living. In past years, this village has had interactions with Westerners and I could only imagine what their lives had been like before ever interacting with people from the US. The villagers had simple occupations such as farmers, weavers, and fishermen. They lived a life of simplicity and were non-materialistic; they would only by what was absolutely necessary for them. Many of them didn’t even have the luxury of having a owning any means of transportation. They didn’t have the best means of health care when it came to caring for the wellbeing of some of the locals there. Another thing that really made this experience unique were the difficulties that came with trying to communicate with the people of Kalasin. Their Engilsh was broken and we had to go down to their level to speak with them in order for them to understand. Simple things live emotions of anger or happiness were an easy way to communicate because you could easily express it back.
Now, the village in Kalasin to the island Koh Samet is absolutely mind altering. I went from a place of simplicity to a place greatly influenced by western culture. On Koh Samet, the locals are exposed to other cultures and tourist attitude every day. They are so adapted that their English is so developed and able communicate at a much more sophisticated level; which is a lot to say in comparison to Phu Por. There are tourists everywhere, with such a large amount of western influence. The natives on Koh Samet seemed much more materialistic. I believe that is due to the fact that they were interacting with tourists every day they had to try and be as seen as figures of wealth and seen knowledge able. If you were to ask any local had come from, a majority would say that they come from a little village back on the main land. Which just shows that with this world change they have learned to be more like they people they were making their living off of.
In the end, the differences between the villages and that of the island, one that stands would out like a sore thumb. The western influence has taken its toll on people, who were once living in a village to living in a place where they are forced to interact every day. I don’t think having to adapt is necessary a bad thing, I just find it interesting how much of a difference in makes in the local citizens of Thailand who were born and raised in a village to that of people who have branched out of their village in seek of a new and better life.